Crowds and runners along the Boston Marathon course will notice something new in the sky this year. Drones with high definition cameras will be flying high above the spectacle as part of new measures to beef up security.
The 15-pound drones will hover above all the action and can fly for days. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has brought on CyPhy Works in Danvers for the security push.
Hank Shaw, special agent in charge of the Boston FBI, said there is no known threat to the Marathon, but vigilance is key.
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"The big trick is to stop a threat before it happens. If we missed something, we failed," Shaw said. "Video proved critical in identifying the Tsarnaev brothers after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. These new drones take video surveillance to a new level."
In a demonstration, the NBC Boston Investigators saw how the drone's cameras can zoom into people in crowds.
"You can see that he's wearing jeans in this case," explained Perry Stoll with CyPhy. "You can see that he's wearing a hat. He's hiding behind something."
The drone's camera can zoom about a mile and potentially spot a suspect trying to flee the scene, which gives law enforcement a level of detail that could prove invaluable.
The drones are not equipped with facial recognition, but can determine if a person of interest has something in his or her hand, and it can gage roughly how tall the person is.
CyPhy said the drones are simple to operate and quick to set up. They will be tethered and are direct powered so they do not require batteries.
Public safety secretary Daniel Bennett said the drones are cheaper to run and may prove more versatile than the State Police Air Wing or helicopters.